President Obama was back in Cotton Mather mode the other day, sermonizing on how the U.S. had gotten "a little bit lazy" about attracting foreign jobs. A month or two back, we'd been scolded for getting a little "soft."
Grating as it is to hear it from a member in good standing of the political class where hard work consists of dialing for dollars in order to fund the next campaign, eating endless chicken dinners, and reading from a teleprompter words that have been written by someone else ... given all that, Mr. Obama may still be onto something. Perhaps we have grown complacent in the sense that we believe that for tough problems there are easy fixes.
Maybe when it comes to the challenge of repairing our broken economy we are convinced that if we chant the mantra "green jobs" often and fervently enough, all will be well.
President Obama is a believer in the miracle of green jobs. So is Governor Shumlin. They take it on faith that if we invest enough in clean energy, we will create thousands – nay, millions – of these green jobs. And they will, lo, be "high paying jobs." Furthermore, they will be "here at home," so we won't have to worry about foreigners paying peasants a few pennies a day to do the work.
Because this belief is embraced uncritically, the President and our governor and other members of the political class have supported lazily doling out taxpayer dollars to all manner of projects that promise to deliver on the promise of green jobs. And they have been exceedingly "soft" when it comes to such things as accountability and cost-benefit analysis. As as result, they have wasted billions.
According to the New York Times, there has been a gold rush occurring in the green sector of the energy economy as
From 2007 to 2010, federal subsidies jumped to $14.7 billion from $5.1 billion
The subsidies include
... loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.
Of course, the Obama administration is not the first to throw money at energy projects – clean and otherwise – that ultimately failed.
As reported in the Washington Post:
The Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation. The hydrogen car. Clean coal. These are but a few examples spanning several decades — a graveyard of costly and failed projects.
But while the government's ineptitude at picking economic winners is an old story, what is new with this administration is the order of magnitude and the brazenness. This is crony capitalism on steroids. The poster child for this excess is Solyndra, the solar company that received some half-a-billion in federal money and went ingloriously into a bankruptcy that protected private investors, including a billionaire Obama fund raiser, while leaving taxpayers on the hook.
But there is more, much more, where they came from ... or went. As Peter Schwiezer writes in his new book, Throw Them All Out, excerpted in the current Newsweek and posted on the Daily Beast:
... several politicians who supported Obama managed to strike gold by launching alternative-energy companies and obtaining grants. How much did they get? According to the Department of Energy’s own numbers ... a lot. In the 1705 government-backed-loan program, for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party. The grant and guaranteed-loan recipients were early backers of Obama before he ran for president, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008. Their political largesse is probably the best investment they ever made in alternative energy. It brought them returns many times over.
The New York Times, Washington Post, & Newsweek cannot be said to be right wing operations engaged in publishing hit pieces on President Obama. One has to conclude that there has been a lot of money thrown around for the purpose of producing "clean energy" and creating "green jobs." Much of it wasted.
The whole business has been characterized by a kind of soft, sentimental thinking ... exempting, of course, the studs from General Electric and Goldman Sachs who always play a hard-nosed game. It has been a kind of "build it and they will come" approach that bought into the bromides of the hour and did not perform due diligence with public money.
So the usual people got rich and the rest of us – unto the next generation and the next – were stuck with more debts to pay.
The most charitable way to describe the thinking behind all this would be to call it "soft" or "lazy."
And Reverend Obama isn't one to be casting stones.